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The Durham Project

Durham boats passing a lock The Durham Project is a research and education initiative in transportation geography that locates and interprets the physical remains of New York’s earliest canals and navigation improvements. It combines geography, archeology and history in a research package that is dedicated to identifying, preserving, and interpreting physical remains of the works of New York's first canal Company - The Western Inland Lock Navigation Company [1792-1820] - and surviving historic environments of that era of inland navigation.

These sites and environments exist along the ancient Mohawk/Oneida transportation corridor that presently is the route of the modern Barge Canal. They constitute a cultural resource base not only for the historic interpretation of canal navigation in New York but for the promotion of recreational and educational uses of the modern canal system.

The effective development of canal-side historic and recreational resources is dependent on a comprehensive inventory of potential sites. Most of the sites and environments identified by the Durham Project exist on one form of state land or another. Therefore, this project is, in essence, a collections management initiative by the State to inventory its own cultural properties. Inventory of state-owned cultural properties is mandated to the State Education Department by Education Law Section 233.

Under Section 233, objects of historic and scientific significance that exist on state land are the responsibility of the State Museum. Yet inventory data on cultural resources outside the Museum's own in-house collections is very limited. This project is an attempt to develop a data base from which to inform the management of these cultural resources by the various agencies of the State. This information also provides a catalyst for local and regional agencies and organizations to develop programs that incorporate these sites into local historic preservation, recreation, and environmental education programs. Such programs, whether at the state or local level, are the basis of increased tourism and subsequent economic benefit.

The comprehensive cultural resource data base being developed by The Durham Project is geographically focused and the resources thematically linked. By integrating data into a single interpretive framework, the project facilitates the development of educational programming linked to field environments. By locating and identifying historic sites and environments, it provides opportunities for public access yet promotes the preservation of these fragile environments during increased public access and recreational development.

As a pilot study to field test the process of driving educational programming, recreational development and resource preservation with content derived from field research, the State Museum undertook its own regional programming initiative in the form of the Bicentennial of the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company [1991-1995]. This program was supported by community-based organizational networks at various event locations, usually tied to archeological resource areas discovered by The Durham Project. The content of each program was drawn from the research data base and served to catalyze community interest and support. Using a replica 18th century Mohawk River Batteau, built by the State Museum in 1991, programming was delivered along the modern canal, stressing canal-side opportunities for educational experiences linked to the environment.

Publications of both a scholarly and popular vein are being produced to perpetuate the educational impact of the project beyond its active, data collection phase. In addition, an electronic database of research resources is being created to assist others interested in environmental impact evaluation, heritage resource development, and continuing historical and archeologcial research. This file is supported by an archive of texts and maps, indexed by research topic.





Websites Relating to this Project


Inland Navigation Before the Erie Canal (1790-1820)

ball image Canajohary: The Archeology of Mohawk River Trade and Transport in the 1790s
A study of the archeological sites and heritage resources in this community in Mongomery County during the 1790s.
ball image Oak Orchard: Wilderness Campsite on the Inland Waterways
A study of this re-discovered historic location along Wood Creek, Oneida County.
ball image Up and Down the River: A Teacher's Guide
A teaching guide that documents the types of goods shipped up and down the Mohawk River in the 1790s.
ball image Native American Engineering Used by New York's First Canal Company
A report that points to Native American fish traps as the model for later navigation aides in the Mohawk River.
ball image The Little Falls Canal
A photo and map archive documenting the 1795 Little Falls Canal, City of Little Falls, Herkimer County.
ball image 1 New Three-handed Batteau
A report on the 1792 survey of the Mohawk River by the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company.
ball image Open Space Program on Wood Creek (80mb download) (MS PowerPoint download help)
This is the full PowerPoint slide program describing heritage resource sites along Wood Creek, Oneida County.
ball image Brush-piling: Eighteenth Century English Engineering in an American Wilderness
This study looks at international precedents for unique canal construction methods used in 1803 on Wood Creek, Onieda County.
ball image Plantation Island and the German Flatts Canal of 1798
A report of research conducted by the State Museum between 1982 and 1992 on this 1798 canal site, Herkimer County.

Tangential Research and Related Findings

ball image New York's Oldest Canal
A summery of the research that rediscovered a 1730 cut in the Mohawk River - the first "canal" in New York State.
ball imageTaverns, Forts & Castles: Rediscovering the Upper Castle of the Mohawks - 1755
A study relocating a major Mohawk village and associated British fort near Indian Castle, Herkimer County, in the 1750s.
ball image Landmarks & Pathways: Re-Discovering Colonial Transport Routes Across The Susquehanna/Mohawk Divide
A study using 1790s research data to discover a section of 1750s roadway in Montgomery and Otsego counties.
ball image The "Painted Rocks" of the Mohawk
Documentation on a landmark riverside pictograph near Amsterdam, Montgomery County, referred to by travelers in the 1790s.

General Information Sites on Related Topics

ball image The 1792 Mohawk River Survey Report
A summary of the facsimile publication of the Official report of the 1792 survey of the Mohawk and Upper Hudson Rivers by the Inland Lock Navigation Company.
ball image Water Ways West: The 1772 Map
An interactive version of the 1772 map of the inland navigation route from Albany to Oswego.
ball image Diver's Fact Sheet
A reference sheet to assist in the search for sunken Durham boats.
ball image The Batteau Discovery
A photo-journal of the four years of summer voyages of the Museum's replica batteau across New York State.

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